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Action needed on housing as government data confirms rise of older households and many homes still failing basic standards

Number of households occupied by over 65s has increased dramatically, by 20% since 2008, with many older people still living in homes deemed hazardous, in disrepair, or too cold.

Ageing Better is calling on government and local authorities, housing associations and private landlords to do more to help people in later life.

The latest English Housing Survey (EHS) confirms there has been a 1.1 million increase in households occupied by someone aged 65 and over in the last decade – a 20% rise. This compares to an increase of just 61,000 (1.5%) in households aged 16-34 since 2008.

It also shows a steady upturn in the number of older people renting privately, with 414,000 (6.3%) of over 65s renting privately compared to 257,000 (4.7%) a decade ago – an increase of 61%. This is mirrored by a drop in the number of older people renting in the social sector, falling from 1.12 million (20%) to just over a million today (16%).

While there have been reductions since 2008 in the number of homes that don’t meet decent homes standards – the minimum standard council and housing association homes should meet according to the government – there is still an unacceptable number of people living in poor housing conditions, EHS data shows. More than a fifth of homes in which the oldest person is 75 or older do not meet the national decent homes standard. Some 11.8% of over 75s homes have Category 1 hazards (a hazard that poses a serious threat to the health or safety of people living in or visiting your home). And 6.3% of over 75s’ homes have excess cold, with 12.7% without boilers.

In the private-rented sector, more than one in three (35.9%) of over 65s households are considered ‘poor housing’ – a home that has serious damp or mould, is non-decent, or has substantial disrepair. Many of today’s over 75s have lived in the same non-decent home for more than 15 years. Nearly half (47%) of the homes in which people over 75 live that are in disrepair would cost nothing to repair, and over a third (35.6%) would cost less than £1 per 20 square metres.

Ageing Better research shows that low-cost home adaptations can have a huge impact on a person’s health, wellbeing and independence. This is especially true when people have a say on what changes are made to their homes and they meet both the functional and emotional needs of the individual. Where housing is unsuitable, people often end up using potentially dangerous coping strategies such as limiting food and drink to avoid using the bathroom, using baby wipes instead of bathing, and sleeping on the sofa.

Homes that help: A personal and professional perspective on home adaptations

Read more

Ageing Better is calling on government, local authorities, housing associations and private landlords to do more to help people in later life to live independently and safely in their own home.  

Dr Rachael Docking, Senior Evidence Manager, Centre for Ageing Better said:

“These figures should be a wake-up call for the whole housing sector. As it stands, we are failing to do what’s needed to help people to live independently and in their own home. Millions of older people are trapped in unsuitable homes which are cold, in disrepair and inaccessible.

“With the average age of households on the rise and a continuing rise in private renting, we need to take urgent action to improve our current housing stock and make sure every new home built is fit-for-purpose, accessible and adaptable, and above all of good quality and a fair price.”